One thing that can almost always be counted on is that the Canfield girls basketball team will be near the top of the All American Conference and vying for a Division II state championship.
While that still may be true. Canfield's rise to the top in 2013-2014 may be harder to come by than usual. One reason why the Lady Cardinals may be in a dogfight this season is because this bunch is lacking in experience.
"We have five girls that earned varsity letters," said longtime Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky recently, "but there will be lots of new faces to Canfield's varsity."
The majority of Pavlansky's roster is made up of juniors, but there are two seniors who lettered a year ago and will be needed to lend leadership this season. Twelfth-graders Crissy Gelonese and Jamie Giambattista will return to head an outfit that coach Pavlansky deeply admires.
"They are a great group of girls," said Pavlansky. "I'm sure this group will have people remembering how they played even if people forget the final score."
A Cardinal that is certainly unforgettable is junior Rachel Tinkey. Tinkey was sensational as a sophomore in scoring, rebounding and defense. Possibly the Canfield girls' best athlete, Tinkey will be the one Cardinal who may be leaned on the most to provide offensive punch. Fellow juniors Lynnae Whitehead and Erin Risner are the two other returning letter winners to the club. Three other juniors who will fill out Pavlansky's rotation are Emily Ellis, Savannah Barko and Ritah Maalouf.
If any of the above-mentioned upperclassmen need some reinforcements, Pavlansky has a collection of underclassmen he can call upon. Sophomores Ashley Kaleel, Heather Haley and Marissa Donchess and freshman Alexandra Stanic should be prepared to play as hard as the rest of their teammates.
"We will be ready to give our best every time out," confirmed Pavlansky. "Our girls always expect to do well when they walk on the court."
The Lady Cards were doing very well when their season came to a crashing halt this past March. Canfield had won 24 games in a row before bowing out of the Division II state playoffs a few steps away from a Final Four appearance. That defeat came at the hands of eventual state champ Hathaway Brown for the second straight season. Before Canfield can get back at Brown this March it will need to get through a rugged conference slate.
"Once again our schedule is tough," Pavlansky announced. "We expect (in the All American Conference) Fitch, Struthers and Howland to be at the top of the league as all three teams have more returning players than us."
Canfield will play at Fitch on Thursday, Dec. 5 then meet the Falcons at home Monday, Jan. 13, welcome the Wildcats Thursday, Dec. 12 then go to Struthers on Thursday, Jan. 23 and host Howland Monday, Dec. 9 then travel to the Tigers on Thursday, Jan. 16. The regular season starts on Saturday with a home game against Chardon. The Cardinal kids then meet Youngstown East a couple nights later before getting a huge early season test on Wednesday, Nov. 27 against perennial playoff contender West Branch.